Tuesday, September 6, 2011

New on DVD & Blu-ray, Week of September 6: 'X-Men: First Class,' 'Hanna' and 'Scarface' Blu-ray

Summer is officially over -- which means that the hot summer films and blockbusters will finally wend their way to DVD. And kicking off September is 'X-Men: First Class,' director Matthew Vaughn's deft undertaking of the X-Men backstory and history that has outstanding performances by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender. 'X-Men: First Class' will arrive on DVD and Blu-ray this Friday. On Tuesday, the main event will be 'Hanna,' director Joe Wright's ('Pride & Prejudice') stab at an actioner, starring Saoirse Ronan as a take-no-hostages 16-year-old girl trained as a super-assassin to wreck revenge on the CIA agent who destroyed her family. And for you Blu-ray junkies, there's a sparkling new edition of 'Scarface.' Read on. 'X-Men: First Class' What It's About: This summer blockbuster charts the beginning of the X-Men saga. Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together, with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known: nuclear Armageddon. In the process, a rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-Men. It's Kinda Like: 'The X-Men' meets 'Legends of the Fall' What the Critics Say: While most critics agreed with Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News when she said that the film was " ... big, bright, savvy, and so expansive you'll undoubtedly leave feeling you got your money's worth" there were some detractors. David Denby of the New Yorker said 'X-Men: First Class' "Looks and feels like a very cheesy Cold War-era B movie ... " and Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times said the film was "Undone by a frustrating mire of multiple plots, overreaching special effects, leaden ancillary players and world-ending military standoffs that have all the tension of a water balloon fight." In the end, however, the fanboys loved it and made it a blockbuster, agreeing with Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post: "'First Class' happily delivers on the escapism and rich narrative texture the best of its predecessors have promised." • Extras: The Blu-ray offers hours of behind-the-scenes and interactive footage as well as 10 Marvel 'X-Men' digital comics. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews | Buy DVD | Save DVD to your Netflix queue Watch a clip: 'Hanna' What It's About: The talented Saoirse Ronan stars as Hanna, a 16-year-old girl raised in the desolate, icy wilds of Finland by her ex-CIA agent father and trained to become the perfect assassin. Every moment of Hanna's childhood and adolescence has been spent building up the strength, stamina and survival instincts she needs to prepare for the day she must strike out on her own to cross Europe to face her family's longtime enemy: lethal intelligence operative Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) who, in turn, has been waiting for the day she can kill Hanna and her dad. It's Kinda Like: 'Leon the Professional' meets Jason Bourne. What We Say: Great idea for a film fails with a weak execution. Director Joe Wright squanders a good opportunity to create a female Jason Bourne vehicle by slowing down the action too much, too often, especially when super spy and arch enemy Wiegler comes on the screen. There's too many subplots and sub-characters that detract from Hanna's main goal -- to get to safety after knocking off the bad guys. Wright does have a deft hand in the action sequences, and when these come to the fore the movie gets propelled forward like a jet plane. But at other times the fantastic acting is undermined by tedious and silly side-trips and encounters. The endeavor looked good on paper but founders on the screen. • Extras: Alternate ending, deleted scenes, commentary by director Joe Wright; the Blu-ray adds an "Adapt or Die" featurette that reveals the intense training and acting process Saoirse Ronan went through to become Hanna as well as location and music scoring featurettes. Rotten Tomatoes Reviews | Buy DVD | Save DVD to your Netflix queue Watch the trailer: 'Scarface' Blu-ray Brain de Palma was at the peak of his storytelling and directing skills when he brought the ulta-violent 'Scarface' to the big screen. Part Machiavellian allegory about corruption and the debasement of the American dream, part love story, part epic gangster action, 'Scarface' has become a cultural touchstone with its over-the-top violence and scenery chewing acting by Al Pacino. This Blu-ray edition does the film justice, with crisp images and a soundtrack that puts you so close to the center of action that you'll literary duck for cover when the shooting starts. Also included with the Blu-ray is a DVD of the original 1932 'Scarface,' which was directed by Howard Hawks, written by Ben Hecht and starred Paul Muni. Bonus features include "The Scarface Phenomenon"­ featurette on the film's impact on popular culture; deleted scenes; "The World of Tony Montana" as told by experts on the real world violence, fear and paranoia that surrounds a drug lord; "The Rebirth" featurette on the history of the remake and the original; a "Scarface Scoreboard" that lets you keep track of the number of times the "F" word is used and monitor the bullets fired; and much more. Hey, you cock-a-roach Tony Montana fans, line up to buy this one. Check out the trailer: Other September 6 Blu-ray Debuts: 'Dressed to Kill' (1980) 'The Hills Have Eyes' (1977) 'Straw Dogs' (1971) Other New September 6 DVD Releases: 'Assassination Games': Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner about rival assassins -- each of whom are masters of their respective weapons -- who form an uneasy alliance in their mission to take down a DEA-backed drug cartel. 'A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song': Third in Disney's modern-day teen Cinderella series, here about a gifted singer who must lay down vocal tracks so her evil step-sister can win a recording contract. Stars Disney's latest female discovery, Lucy Hale. 'Clash of Empires': A kidnapping threatens to set off a war between the empires of Rome, China and Malaysia in this Malaysian extravaganza set in 120 AD. 'Everything Must Go': Adapted and directed by Dan Rush, and based on a short story by Raymond Carver, 'Everything Must Go' tells the story of Nick Porter (Will Ferrell), a career salesman whose days of being on top are long gone. The same day Nick gets fired -- for falling off the wagon one last time -- he returns home to discover his wife has left him, changed the locks on their suburban home and dumped all his possessions out on the front yard. Faced with his life imploding, Nick puts it all on the line -- or more properly, on the lawn -- reluctantly holding a yard sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival. 'Triad Underworld': Talky Hong Kong gangster film: On the same night his wife gives birth to their first son, Triad mob boss Hung (Andy Lau) learns that an assassin plans to kill him within the next 12 hours. Encouraged to leave town by his best friend and right-hand man Lefty (Jacky Cheung) and three untrustworthy lieutenants, Hung decides to stay and makes plans to protect himself and his family. Check out more September 6 DVD releases at OnVideo.

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